Mortenson: Steve Kroft is a Ruddy-Faced Suicide Bomber


As noted earlier today by Matt Welch, Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, the moon-faced millionaire and savior of Afghanistan, is something of a fraud. When 60 Minutes' correspondent Steve Kroft ambushed Mortenson at a lecture in Atlanta, asking him to submit to a five minute interview, the author had him tossed from the event and slithered out a rear entrance. Now Mortenson is talking to Outside magazine, and he says that he didn't talk to Kroft because he thought he was a suicide bomber…or something:

He had a big, brown trench coat on, on a hot Atlanta day. When I see a big coat on a hot day, I think about Pakistan and I think "suicide bomber." It took me a few seconds to realize who this guy was. I don't watch TV, so I don't even know what he looks like.

Mortenson admits that the book is a "compressed" version of the real story, but blames his ghost writer:

When the book came out, did you read parts of your own story that made you say, "Hey, I don't think this is accurate"?

Yeah. Especially in regards to the timing. Like, you know, you went there three times, twice you went there in the fall, so let's just make it one fall trip. At the end of the book, I took three trips up to northern Afghanistan, over about a year and a half. Those were synthesized into one trip.

So he didn't read his "own" book in galleys?

What about all those villagers interviewed by 60 Minutes, who claimed that he didn't wander, famished and lost, into their village after descending K2?

Although this is irrelevant in American culture, it's worth noting that in the Balti language of northeast Pakistan, there is little or no emphasis on tenses, and "now" can mean a few minutes, weeks, or even a whole season. The Balti find westerners' emphasis on time confusing.

Like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, the people of Pakistan are confused by Western concepts of "time," "accuracy," and literary "compression."

Whole piece here. There is plenty more stupidity and dishonesty in Mortenson's account of how he mistakenly made things up (like his shifting account of being clear kidnapped by the Taliban. Or perhaps it wasn't the Taliban. Well, they were dudes with beards, so there is that.)